Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 03.11.05
Stanstead, Quebec


Blue jeans, baby

I knew I was in trouble when I asked the 3-year-old for fashion advice.

"Does this look okay?" I asked Abby.

"Ooo, I like your pants," she said. "Ooo, I like that shirt."

There's not much Abby doesn't like, actually, so much so that when it comes to her own clothes she wants to wear them all at once. As I was quizzing her on my style choices, for instance, she was wearing an orange plaid skirt over pink leggings, white socks and plastic purple high-heels, a green T-shirt and wool sweater, and on top of this was one of her older sister's camisoles, which she calls "a bla." I believe Madonna also went through this phase.

But I was looking for someone with clothing confidence and Abby certainly knows what she likes. Getting dressed, for instance, usually goes something like this: "I Don't want that hat. Want the pink hat. The pink hat! NO, PINK! PI-I-I-I-NK! AAAAAAAHHH!"

I had come to Abby because I was getting ready to teach my class at Bishop's and had put on a yellow button-down with jeans - always jeans. Whether it's a neurosis or just a habit, I only feel comfortable in blue jeans. My obituary will read "The jeans-clad billionaire…" So I was good with the jeans. It was the yellow shirt.

I had already gone to Kate. She reads those teen magazines, so she knows what's hot and what's like totally gross.

"Does this look okay?"

She shrugged and said, "It looks fine."

It was one of those "Does this make me look fat?" kind of answers.

"No really. Be honest," I said.

"Well, your jeans look pulled up too high."

The jeans? Those were the least of my worries.

"What do you mean? I always wear these. This is how they hang."

"Never mind. You look fine."

I moved on to James. He's a pretty natty dresser for a 9-year-old.

"Your jeans look funny," he said. "Maybe it's the shoes. They kind of stick out too much."

Again with the jeans! That was when I turned to Abby. I was determined to keep asking the question until I got the answer I wanted. I felt like the Parti Québécois.

In the end, though, I tore off the yellow shirt and put on a T-shirt and a familiar brown sweater.

It's kind of sad that I was more preoccupied with what I was going to wear to class than what I was going to teach the class (Tonight's lecture: "Does This Tie Establish Me As a Total Fraud?"), especially when you consider my complete lack of fashion sense. You'd be hard pressed, for instance, to find a shirt in my repertoire that isn't a) full of holes b) stained c) 15 years old or d) all of the above.

Not long ago, I was having dinner with co-workers and we were guessing how many pairs of shoes each of us owned. The numbers ranged from "3" (me) to "15 to 20."

I mention this to make a point and also to fulfill my co-worker's fears that I would.

The point is that I am at once a fashion have-not and terribly insecure about looking like a buffoon. Being really cheap doesn't help. It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the tremendous social pressure to look good. Thus you have books like "What You Wear Can Change Your Life." (I'm anxiously awaiting the sequel "Your Shoes Are Plotting to Kill You in Your Sleep.")

Usually I am able to ignore the nagging insecurity in my head and the giggling students in my class. But last week I got an e-mail from a reader complaining about a recent column. He closed this way: "You mock them and hide behind a newspaper column. I don't fault you though; I would too if I looked like a smug know-it-all with a bad haircut."

Smug know-it-all, sure, but what's wrong with my hair? Abby…?